Do You Qualify?

Do You Qualify?

Speakers are so lucky! We get to make choices about our words: we can decide which ones and how many of them to use. And we can make different choices at different times, and switch our words around depending on the picture we want to create.


When asked her opinion of a proposal, Nanette could have offered any of the following responses:

“I sort of think we really need more time, I mean, don’t you?”

“I think we really need more time.

“I think we need more time.”

“We need more time.”

Nanette might have selected the first waffling word salad if her main purpose was not to annoy anyone. She might have selected the last statement if she knew what she thought and believed that her actual opinion was being sought. The middle two are variations on the extremes and express gradual waffle-shedding

There is nothing wrong with any of these responses, if they serve the purpose and intent of the speaker, and if they are choices that the speaker is making. There are times when we might want to sound indecisive, accepting, collegial, or indifferent. Indeed, there are times when that’s how we feel. But sometimes a speaker is feeling the strength of the last statement above, but allows a dribbling of the qualifiers that reduce power. Habit is a pretty strong influence on speaking behavior, and is discouraging of choice.

Some speakers, without thinking, always offer opinion-ettes wrapped in qualifiers. Some listeners find this tiresome. And some speakers, without thinking, always hand down decisions without qualification. Some listeners find this terrifying.

Many speakers hope that they can discern the message and intent of the speaker from what is said, qualified or not.

Choice! It’s a wonderful thing.